Tuolumne County is largely rural, with more places to hike, fish, camp and go boating with your dog than you can shake a stick at. Its scenic lakes are tucked into dramatic mountain canyons and bowls that add to the getting-away-from-it-all experience. Here’s a look at some prominent bodies of water where you and your pup can splash, hike and play.
• Pinecrest Lake, 30 miles east of Sonora on Highway 108, is a scenic and heavily visited (in summer) body of water perched at a cool 5,645 feet in the Stanislaus National Forest. Dogs are not permitted in the day-use area in summer, but the very popular Pinecrest Lake Loop (also known as the Pinecrest National Recreation Trail), just shy of four miles long, is easy, scenic and dog-friendly (on a leash). Start at the marina and hike the loop in either direction.
• Also on the Stanislaus River, just a hop, skip and jump from Jamestown and Sonora, New Melones Reservoir is part of the California Water Project feeding the Central Valley. Pets are not permitted on the Natural Bridges Trail, but they’re welcome to join you (leashed) on 18 other designated pathways, some easy, some strenuous, in the Tuttletown and other recreation areas, as well as in the surrounding hills. Ranger-led programs are offered year-round, with well-behaved, leashed dogs invited to join in. Campgrounds are dog-friendly.
• Well off the beaten path for Yosemite-bound tourists, Lake Don Pedro, fifth-largest reservoir in the state, is a camping, boating and fishing haven snugged into a canyon fed by the Tuolumne River and other streams. Camp and hike if you like (backpackers, take note: Don Pedro is one of few dammed lakes in the state where shoreline camping in undeveloped areas is still permitted), or go upscale with a houseboat vacation. Lake Don Pedro Marina rents dog-friendly houseboats ranging in length from 50 to 70 feet, all loaded with amenities. Pet-friendly fishing boats, deck boats, pontoon boats and personal watercraft also are available for rent here, as well as at sister property Moccasin Point Marina.
Photo Credit: @weims_in_crime